Friday, March 30, 2012

Making Pirukad with Taavi...

...that's an Estonian stuffed pastry.

Taavi is a first generation American, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Estonia after World War II. He's a great cook and I especially love it when I get an invitation to join Taavi and Stephen in their home for a traditional Estonian meal. Of course everything prepared in their kitchen is a delight, both exceptional in the cooking arts, but I was particularly taken by the Pirukad. This little pastry's substantial dough is tender and melts in your mouth. I like that it has a hint of sweetness, which nicely off-sets the savory filling. This Pirukad recipe is from Estonian Tastes and Traditions by Karin Annus Karner. Taavi received the book as a gift from his sister.

Presented below is the Parmitainas (means yeast dough in Estonian) recipe. The fillings are up to your discretion to make. These lovely pastries are great for brunch, appetizers or to eat with no other purpose in mind, but to enjoy them. 

Note: Taavi baked these Pirukads, but they can also be fried in about 2 inches of vegetable oil in a large pot or deep fryer. 
Also, these little pastries take some time to make. It might be fun to share the experience with friends.

Makes 60ish small Pirukad.
4 ½  teaspoons granulated sugar
½ cup warm water (from the tap works)           
2 (1/4 ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon salt
1 ½ cups half-and-half, warmed
6 cups all-purpose flour (Taavi used bread flour)
1 egg, lightly beaten (for baked pirukad, Taavi used two)

Mix ½ teaspoon of sugar into the warm water and sprinkle with the yeast. Let the mixture sit for a minute, then stir. Cover and let stand in a warm place to proof for about 10 minutes.
add two packets of yeast to warm water and sugar

This is what the yeast looks like after proofing for 10 minutes.

 Meanwhile, in a large bowl mix together the butter, eggs, cardamom, salt, half-and-half, and the remaining 4 teaspoons of sugar. 

Stir in the yeast mixture and slowly incorporate the flour and then knead vigorously for at least 5 minutes. 
Add yeast

Need vigorously for 5 minutes
Add more flour if necessary, until the dough no longer sticks to your hands. Put the dough into a greased bowl, turning to coat. Cover and let it rise for about 1 hour. (Taavi adds about 15 more minutes on to that.)
Cover greased bowl
This is what it looks like after an hour.

Preheat oven to 375 and grease a baking sheet. Roll out the dough. 
divide the dough into fours

roll it out   
Cut out the dough using something that is about 3” in diameter, a drinking glass works fine. Pull on the rounded cut, stretching it to an oval shape, place your filling into the center, be generous with the portion, brush the edges of the pirukad rounds with beaten egg and pinch shut.  Seal with a fork and then brush the tops with egg. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until golden.
seal with egg

crimp with a fork
Taavi used chopped ham with spices and ground veal/pork with cabbage for the fillings. The fillings are already cooked before putting in the pastry. 
ground pork and veal with cabbage and spices

in the metal bowl has the chopped ham with spices filling and included in the picture are the ingredients to make the yeast dough.
Look at all these golden lovelies!!
 Here are a couple of links for Estonian Tastes and Traditions

Monday, March 26, 2012

Kevin Naderi shows off his Roost, how fun is that!!!

Kevin Naderi shows off his Roost!!!!
Click on the above link to see the video.

Sorrel Urban Bistro for brunch, Oh my..... was Sunday, sunny and noon, time for food. Time for BRUNCH!!!! Sorrel Urban Bistro was a great choice. Look what I had!!! Seared scollops, bacon, poached egg, mixed greens with a simple vinaigrette. This was done so beautifully that I just had to take a lot of pictures. And so tasty, too. Scallops are one of my all time favorite foods and these were perfect. What a combination!!!!

My notes: I feel comfortable here. It is fun to share meals with friends, but that isn't always possible, it is nice to be welcomed into a restaurant as a woman dining alone and feel comfortable. It is so today. The dress of the patrons range from sportcoats, ties, slacks, dresses, pearls, heels to t-shirts, shorts and flipflops. Service is the same regardless. I like that. At the host station is a monitor that has real time video of the kitchen. Now that's trust. I guess that goes along with their open kitchen, where guests are encouraged to watch the food being prepared and cooked.

And yes, I had dessert. I do have a sweet tooth and my hips are saying okay, lets add a little extra sway to and fro. There were three desserts to choose from, no, I did not get all three, but I settled on the Creme Brulee, a favorite of mine. It was very creamy with a good flavor. Clean, fresh.
This is a friendly restaurant with wait staff that know the menu and who are attentive without being over bearing.

Sorrel Urban Bistro
2200 West Alabama
Houston, TX 77098
Executive Chef, Soren Pederson

Quote of the day: A smiling face is half the meal. Latvian Proverb.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Get to the Roots Bistro of the matter....

..and I did with pleasure!!! I started my meal with one of Roots Bistros' fresh organic juice combinations. I opted for the Carrot/Ginger, juiced to order.  Great choice. Loaded with ginger, giving it a loud peppery taste, cooled and soothed with the sweetness of the carrot. Other juice combos listed Kale/Carrot and Cucumber/Cilantro (which sounds really good).

Truth be told, had I stopped at the carrot/ginger juice I would have left there a happy girl, but I didn't and gladly so.
Big Eye Tuna

It was a goodly amount of tuna. I took what was left home.
I settled on the Big Eye Tuna with Local Spinach, seaweed topped off with pomegranate. The tuna is seared on one side and left to its naturalness on the other. It's kind of like a big piece of sashimi. Very rich, very satisfying. The greens and the pomegranate add a nice twist.
The menu changes daily in accordance with what is available locally. Love that. The left over menus are then cut up to make coasters. Love that, too.

I also had dessert, the fire roasted coconut milk doughnut. YESSS, it was very tasty. It is made in their wood burning pizza oven. It is dusted with a roasted almond, sugar, salt "dirt" to enhance the sweetness of the doughnut. Served with two large beautiful strawberries.

The executive chef is German Mosquera. This restaurant is his brain child.

On the walls are large paintings. I couldn't stop looking at them. They are celebrity oriented, normally not my cup of tea, but there is something so very appealing about these paintings. Bold, honest, beautiful. The painter is Wayne McDonald. His studio is in the Heights. My camera didn't do the paintings justice, but you can get an idea. I was told that he paints with his fingers and toothpicks. Amazing. They are worth a look.

Marilyn's Eyes by
Wayne McDonald
617 W. 19th Street
Houston, TX 77008

Roots Bistro
507 Westheimer
Houston, TX 77006

Love the gardening tools as accents for their patio.

Quote for the day: "One cannot think well, sleep well, love well. If one has not dined well."
Virginia Woolf.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pad Thai in a box...

...let it out.

I like to make things from the ground up, but I haven't ventured into Asian cooking much, I don't own a Wok. It is my goal by the end of the year to make Pad Thai without a box in a Wok.  It's the sauce that I'm most unfamiliar with, ingredients that I've never used, never shopped for, but for now, this boxed up version works for me. It comes with rice noodles and the sauce, the rest is totally up to me. This may sound silly, but it has taken me some time to even get the boxed version of Pad Thai right. Gratefully, it came together yesterday and thank goodness, because I was having a craving for it.  Like most things I cook, Pad Thai has a very forgiving nature. It allows the lea way to use a variety of proteins, vegetables and herbs, adding as little or as much as you want.

For those gluten-free friends, it says that it is gluten-free. The sauce uses corn starch to thicken it and the noodles are rice.
For this Pad Thai in a box, I used Buddy's Chicken Tenders.

In a pan, heat Canola Oil, throw in a pinch of salt and add fresh chopped ginger, then sautee the tenders until cooked, add in two or three chopped green onions.

Chicken Tenders with salt and fresh ginger.
Fry up an egg.

slice some lime

Cilantro fresh from the garden!!!!

Green onions cooked and raw.
Peanuts can go halved or finely chopped.
 Fry up an egg, set it aside. Slice your lime, chop up more green onions. Add your prepared noodles and sauce to the chicken, stir and keep on the heat for five or so minutes. Throw it on a plate, top with the egg, peanuts, chopped raw green onions, Cilantro. After the Pad Thai is on your plate, squeeze a wedge of lime all over it. The sauce is kind of sweet and the lime adds flavor and takes the sweet down a notch.
It is pretty, Okay, really.
Quote of the Day!
"When baking follow directions, when cooking, go by your own taste." Lailco Barhs

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Underbelly is gladly in mybelly!!!!!

OMG!!! Another great restaurant in my neighborhood. How can this keep happening? I am so grateful that it does, because a restaurant serving good fresh food with a nod toward our local growers is what makes a community grow, happy and that very important word, sustainable. It is a grand design that just keeps getting better.

I had the good fortune to be invited to Underbelly by Flora. It is so great to check out a new place with a friend(s), Bob joined us a little later, especially when everyone orders different dishes.
Before I get into the food, I have to say I love the interior of Underbelly. Gratefully, the architects used the bones of what was once Chances and presto chango, make an airy, comfortable easy to be in restaurant. The walls contain shelves of canned vegetables, jams and jellies in glass jars. They are listed for sale on the dessert menu. Delightful.
Now to the food.
I had the Beef Stew, but not just any beef stew, beef stew made with slow roast Akaushi (red cow) Beef. This particular beef touts heart healthy as it's mantra, because it contains aleic acid, good fat for the heart. Also in this stew were potatoes, onions topped off with chives. The meat was lean and flavorful. I enjoyed it very much.
Flora had the Cornmeal Cured Pork Sandwich. While eating the sandwich, Flora said with gleam in her eyes, "I'm Happy." Now that is a recommendation if I've ever heard one!!! The sandwich came with fried pork rinds.
Bob ordered true to his Aussie roots and had the Braised Lamb Shank served over Farro Salad. He said it was excellent which was a true compliment considering Bob is a master at cooking lamb. Bob had already started eating his meal, before I had the where-with-all to snap the picture. I was a bit distracted with my beef stew.
Okay, so this last dish was my need to have dessert. It was a hard choice, but I selected something I had never eaten, Monkey Bread, Bourbon Butter with Caramel.  This is one of the best bread oriented desserts I have ever had. Light, but substantial bread that isn't over sweeten by the caramel. It is a lot of dessert, I guess that's why it says family style on the menu. It could easily feed a family of six. I'm glad I tried it. No, I didn't eat the whole thing, tempting, but no!!!!
Quote of the Day:
"The secret to staying young, is to live honestly, eat slowly and lie about your age." Lucille Ball

The Story of Houston Food
1100 Westheimer Rd.
Houston, TX 77006